Culture

The Recorder – In 26th year, Taste of World Cultures resumes in person at Greenfield High School

GREENFIELD — Students of Greenfield High School and the wider community returned to the stage Wednesday night for the first time since 2019 for their annual celebration of cultures from around the world.

“This is a truly special event,” said Tara Cloutier, a Spanish teacher at the high school who has been organizing the Taste of World Cultures event, celebrating cultures from around the world with food, song and dance, for the last 26 years.

And the significance of Wednesday’s celebration, after two years of dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, was not lost on the audience members, who clapped and cheered in the auditorium for every student — from the youngest members of the StyleFX hip- hop dance crew, to seniors in the French and Spanish classes.

The hit of the night, as it often is, Cloutier said, was the international fashion show that closed out the evening. Donning traditional garb from around the world, students made their walk to center stage where they struck a pose for the camera.

Since it started 26 years ago, the annual Taste of World Cultures event has continued to evolve and grow.

“Last year was our biggest evolution,” Cloutier said.

March 2020 was the only year the event was canceled, according to Cloutier. By March 2021, a plan to hold a remote version of the event made it possible to continue the tradition in a new way.

She explained that last year, students submitted videos of themselves cooking or speaking a foreign language. Those short videos were then compiled into one long video that was shared with the school community.

“We did our best,” she said.

Aspects of last year’s event carried over into this year, with half of the evening dedicated to presenting a video compilation of students cooking or participating in various internet challenges.

“It’s really great to be back in person,” said senior Phoebe Knapp, as she waited in line for a wide array of food.

Rory Cronen-Townsend, a senior who emceed the event, said she was grateful to the businesses who donated the food, given that the potluck-style meal typically featured at the event wasn’t possible in an effort to keep certain COVID-19 precautions in place.

“We’re really lucky this year … that a bunch of the businesses in Greenfield were able to donate,” Cronen-Townsend said.

Cloutier also expressed gratitude for the community support that made Wednesday’s event possible.

“I can’t even tell you how generous they’ve been,” Cloutier said, speaking of the businesses that donated, which included Beijing House, Brad’s Place, Cocina Lupita, Country Mart, Denny’s Pantry, Franklin County Technical School, Goodies, Hope & Olive, Magpie Woodfired Pizzeria, Mesa Verde, Namaste Indian Restaurant, The People’s Pint, Rise Above Bakery, Terazza, Thai Blue Ginger, Tito’s Taqueria and New Fortune. “We really couldn’t have done this without them.”

Cronen-Townsend, who said her favorite part of the event is getting to try all the food, said there’s something special about the Taste of World Cultures.

“There’s something about the community aspect and community feel,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of events where the community can see each other outside of the school.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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